Image by Zakeros
‘Do you think we will be found?’
Nikhil said nothing. He just watched the darkness around them.
Astrid hit him in the head with the pillow. Nikhil turned to her with a gesture of resignation on his face.
‘This is deserted’. He rubbed his head where he had been hit. “With a little luck, some Bedouin will rescue us”.
Astrid hit him again with the pillow.
‘You’re a fool.’
‘I have all my limbs and, besides, I’m too handsome.’
‘Says who?’
The ship stopped vibrating around them and the engine stopped with a screech that did not bode well.
Nikhil stood up and passed her.
‘I’m going to see what happens.’
Astrid was alone and hugged the pillow. When Hecate was destroyed she was sleeping, and the only thing she could get in those moments of blind panic had been that stupid pillow. Good thing the lifeboat ship was well equipped.
She started to shiver, although life support won’t stop until four hours after the engine stopped.
What if Nikhil could not fix it this time?
Dashboard navigation lights cracked a ghostly light that was reflected in the metal, creating strange reflections and impossible shadows.
She could not breathe.
She had to make sure that Nikhil solved the damn fault.
She walked cautiously up the small machine room.
His legs stuck out underneath the engine.
‘Can you fix it?’
‘There is a recalcitrant nut. It’s what keeps the engine from moving. It’s stuck.’
‘Are you going to fix it?’ She could not help sounding desperate. She began to feel that she could not breathe.
She kicked the motor, which moved a few inches.
“I’d never have thought violence could solve anything,’ came the voice of Nikhil, ‘but this time it worked. If you pass me the number five key, this will be fixed in no time.’
Astrid looked for the key in the tool box and dropped it on the greasy hand that stretched toward her from under the engine.
A few punches later Nikhil reappeared wiping his hands on his blue overalls. The logo of the Hecate was barely visible under all the dirt.
‘The workaround is a bit rough, but it will endure until we are rescued.’
‘What was the problem this time?
‘With the vibration the damn nut scratched against the condenser.’ He pulled a lever and the engine started. ‘Fixed.’
Astrid said nothing. She hugged her pillow and went back to the cabin. Shee collapsed on the only seat there was. Nikhil leaned against the dashboard.
The silence lasted an eternity. When she couldn’t stand it anymore, she stood again.
‘You know what I miss from the Hecate?’
‘No,’ he smiled. ‘What?’
‘The Milanese sauce. It disguised the taste of the food quite well. That is, if you can call it food, of course.’
Nikhil started laughing. Astrid smiled.
‘And you?’
He thought for a moment.
‘I do not know. Security, I guess.’
‘Safety? The damn ship disintegrated in her first jump!’
Nikhil did not answer. He slipped into a sitting position on the floor. He bent his legs to his chest and buried his face between his knees.
They were going to die. No ship would hear their distress signal. They Would be without air. Or without food.
One of them would murder and devour the other to avoid starvation. As in the stories about the first interstellar travels.
Some ships were lost in the darkness and the strong devour the weak until only one was left and when they found him, he was not even human.
‘I’m going crazy.’
The silence was heavy, stretching endless minutes.
The Hecate. An innovative technology design. The best thing they had left to develop on Earth after the war.
‘They will come to our rescue.’

Translated into English by Adelaida Saucedo

First Published:
Spanish (original): Axxón: Ficción Breve 15
French(translated by Pierre Jean Brouillaud): À la Dérive (INFINÌ)